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Air Quality Program

Clean Air Rule: Reserve

Feedback we heard

Ecology released a draft of the Clean Air Rule in early 2016. Industry and environmental stakeholders expressed concerns about how to ensure carbon pollution is reduced while protecting and encouraging business growth.

Key pieces of feedback were:

  • Encourage businesses to expand in Washington.
  • Ensure carbon pollution in Washington is reduced even if there is business growth.
  • Encourage businesses to keep production in Washington.

Purpose of a reserve

Finding ways to reduce carbon emissions while still accommodating business growth is a complex issue. In order to address this in the Clean Air Rule, Ecology has included a mechanism called a reserve to achieve reductions in carbon pollution without harming the growth and expansion of businesses in Washington.

A reserve creates a bank of emission reductions used to offset new emissions coming from businesses moving into Washington, or an existing company expanding or increasing its production. This ensures that carbon pollution continues to be reduced over time while protecting the economy.

Deposits made to the reserve account

You might think of the reserve like a savings account of emission reductions. The rule tracks emission reductions in units equal to one metric ton of carbon dioxide equivalent, which are called “emission reduction units” or ERUs.

A small portion of the reductions achieved by businesses regulated under the Clean Air Rule are set aside in the special reserve which is managed by Ecology.

When a business intentionally scales back its production or shuts down, the resulting reduction in emissions are added to the reserve. This ensures the ERUs being sold to other businesses come from permanent decreases in carbon pollution rather than simply curtailing operations to sell emission reduction units.

Energy-intensive, trade-exposed businesses, which have a special formula for their carbon reductions, also contribute to the reserve if their production decreases.

Withdrawals from the reserve account

When companies responsible for carbon pollution open or expand operations in Washington, Ecology uses ERUs from the reserve to offset the increase in emissions. EITE facilities that increase production also have their increases offset by the reserve. These ERUs are retired out of the account and not used again.

If the reserve builds up ERUs over time, the excess can be used to support projects with positive environmental justice impacts or voluntary green power renewable programs. An environmental justice advisory committee is being formed and will help decide how the excess ERUs are used.

Climate change impacts on Washington

Climate change is a global issue, but the impacts are being felt locally in Washington state: acidifying oceans; increased risk of wildfires; drought; and reduced snowpack threatening water supplies for fish, crops, power generation – and people.

Puget Sound
Puget Sound is experiencing a suite of long-term changes, and these changes are damaging and expected to accelerate in the coming decades due to rising carbon emissions.

Pacific salmon are critical to the cultural identity of many Coast Salish tribes and local economies. They are also linked to the health of freshwater ecosystems. Changes to streamflows and ocean acidification are projected to harm the spawning and survival of Pacific salmon populations.


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